Abbas says Israel to remove major roadblocks as Sharon rejects pullout referendum idea
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that Israel had agreed to remove major roadblocks as part of its withdrawal from five West Bank towns in coming weeks.
Following Tuesday's Mideast summit at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Israeli and Palestinian officials returned home and were working to hammer out the details of a cease-fire.
On Wednesday, a senior Israeli military official confirmed that several roadblocks would be removed as part of the handover of security to the Palestinians, The AP reported.
In the coming three weeks, Israel is to hand over security control in the towns of Jericho, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem and Ramallah. The timetable was agreed to at Abbas' meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
On Wednesday, Abbas said: "The Israelis will withdraw from the cities and the adjacent areas and they will leave checkpoints, and Palestinian security forces will replace them at these checkpoints."
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday insisted that there was no question of his Gaza Strip pullout plan being subjected to a referendum.
After his Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he would lead a campaign for the premier's policy to be put before the people, Sharon rejected the idea completely. "There will be no referendum on the disengagement plan," he was quoted as saying by Israel public radio. "The proposals on this subject resemble threats and I never yield to threats."
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